Leaked audio of far-right Israeli politician shows glimpse of hardline policy

Itamar Ben-Gvir says he hopes for a 'fully' right-wing government

Israeli far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, centre, inspects the site of an explosion at a bus stop near the entrance to Jerusalem on November 23. EPA
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A leaked audio recording of far-fight Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir has been aired on Israeli Army Radio, Reuters reported on Sunday. Mr Ben-Gvir later confirmed to the radio station that the leaked recording was genuine.

Mr Ben-Gvir, who is set to gain a seat in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which is currently being formed, belongs to the Jewish Power party. In the recording, he appears concerned that proposed counterterrorism legislation could be turned against far-right Israelis.

He is expected to be appointed national security minister, which will give him a security role within Israel and the occupied West Bank, to the concern of many who point to some of the extreme views he has expressed in the past.

He was convicted of inciting racism against Arabs in 2007 and said that all Arabs must be deported from Israel — around 20 per cent of the country’s population. He recently claimed, however, that his views have become less extreme.

On joining Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, he said he hoped Israel would now have a “fully, fully right-wing government”.

Mr Ben-Gvir has openly supported Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defence League, a radical organisation outlawed in Israel. Kahane also founded Kahane Chai, or Kach, an extremist group linked to the 1994 Hebron massacre, when a member of the group killed 29 worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque. The group was banned in Israel that year and is listed as a terrorist organisation in the US and Europe.

Kahane, who was assassinated in New York in 1990, was charged with terrorism offences in the US after plotting to bomb the Iraqi embassy in Washington and the Libyan embassy in Brussels.

The US State Department reiterated that Kach was a terrorist group when Mr Ben-Gvir attended a memorial for Kahane in early November.

In the leaked audio, Mr Ben-Gvir said that some of his party’s planned legislation could backfire against them.

When someone present at the party meeting discussed a proposed bill for deporting those who voice solidarity with militants, Mr Ben-Gvir said the legislation could be used against far-right Israelis.

"Let's say that tomorrow morning ... a family member comes along and praises the action of Doctor Goldstein, then they should be thrown out of the country?” he said.

That referred to Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the Hebron massacre.

"Every bill you propose has very, very broad consequences and impacts," Mr Ben-Gvir says in the recording. "If you know what the impacts are and you know what needs to be done - I'm with you. But first, everything much be understood."

Mr Ben-Gvir's likely appointment has resonated within the Israeli military. A soldier was suspended on Friday after being videotaped warning pro-Palestinian activists in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron: "Ben-Gvir will sort this place out."

Queried by Army Radio, Mr Ben-Gvir verified the recording.

In other interviews, he has also refused to be drawn on past calls to end a police ban on Jewish prayer at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Palestinians and Jordan regard Jewish prayer there as a major provocation.

Pressed by Israeli broadcaster Kan radio on Sunday, he said only that he would "do everything possible to prevent bigoted policies on the Temple Mount", using Israel's name for the site.

Updated: November 27, 2022, 3:16 PM
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